Belle of Liberty

Letting Freedom Ring

Monday, June 18, 2012

A Father's Role

Socialists have spent generations demeaning the role of the father in our society.  In the Sixties, they were quite blatant about it, scorning a society where men ruled – a “paternalistic”, authoritarian society that did not give women their “equal” opportunity.

My mother said that a woman can’t teach her son to be a man.  She was the exception to the rule, teaching my older brother to stand up to the neighborhood bully when the boy assaulted my brother on his paper route.  My father was all man, but he’d turned pacifist since World War II.  He’d seen too many men die.  He believed we needed to win in Vietnam to prevent the spread of communism, but even though he was a boxing fan and a John Wayne fan, he didn’t want to teach his elder son to fight.  He had an almost reverent (for an agnostic) respect for peace.

So the duty fell to Mom, instead.

Our parents were disturbed by the portrayal of fathers on television in the Sixties.  They were made out to be buffoons or fools.  There exceptions here and there, and there were the reruns of the Fifties, which the Progressives despised:  Father Knows Best, Leave it to Beaver, and Bonanza, which debuted in September, 1959, right on the brink of the Sixties.

The show ran through the entire 1960s up to 1973, with Lorne Greene cast as the widowed 19th Century rancher of three sons (all by different mothers).  Cartwright was the consummate father figure, played admirably by Greene.  The show’s 14 year-run (quite a long run in television) is a testament to Green’s kindly, paternal influence.

Another cast member, Michael Landon (“Little Joe”) would go on to play a father figure himself, “Pa Ingalls” in the popular series, Little House on the Prairie.  In fact, Landon went straight from Bonanza to Little House on the Prairie, in 1974.  Did Landon inherit Greene’s “paternal” acting skills.

Greene went on, in 1978, to play another father figure in the short-lived Sci-Fi series, Battlestar Galactica.  Lasting only 24 episodes (about a year), the show was criticized for its poor production values and actually sued for allegedly trying to infringe on the popularity of the first Star Wars movie, released the year before.

Although Battlestar Galactica was, and would be considered, “camp”, there was something so comforting about it.  Amidst the destruction of a far-off solar system, you felt a connection.  Battlestar was all about family.  Not just Adama (Lorne Greene), and his children, who followed him into service, but all those who joined their space convoy in search of a legendary planet called “Earth”.

The message was that though these survivors represented 12 colonies with very different cultures (all based on the zodiac), and hinting at an ancient Egyptian background, they were all united in two things:  defense against a common enemy and a long trek, that might well take generations.

The original Battlestar Galactica was faulted for not taking itself too seriously.  The show didn’t perhaps take special effects seriously, but it certainly took family seriously.  Battlestar had an appealing optimism to it, most often represented in the eldest son’s sidekick, Starbuck, orphaned at an early age, and more or less adopted by Adama’s family.

The eldest son Apollo, played by Richard Hatch (no, not the Richard Hatch from Survivor; the Richard Hatch from the old soap opera, All My Children), was the lead, but at some point Dirk Benedict overshadowed him as Starbuck.  Not that Hatch wasn’t very pleasant to look at and admirable in his veneration for his father.  But it was Starbuck who never believe in giving up or giving in to despair.

In the final episode, he’s fighting with his girlfriend, Cassiopeia (played by Laurette Spang, one of the actresses from the original Dark Shadows), about going on a dangerous mission to destroy a Cylon battlestar (the machines that want to wipe out the human race).  Spang was really crying – presumably she was upset about the show ending – and Benedict tells her, “You can’t always go around assuming the worst is going to happen.  That’s no way to live.”

Apollo, for his part, proves to be a terrific father to his stepson, Boxey, although you see very little of the boy in the later episodes.  In fact, he’s great with all the kids throughout the series.  One assumes that the widowed Apollo will take up a young lady pilot, also the daughter of a battlestar commander, on her invitation to move into the future and produce sons like him.

We never get a chance to find out.  Twice, the producers tried to resurrect Battlestar Galactica.  Two years after the first show was curtained, another was produced, still starring Lorne Greene.  But this version didn’t have Hatch and Benedict (who was, by this time, committed to The A Team).  Apparently, it also didn’t have the same script writers.  This BG was so ridiculous as to be unwatchable, and didn’t last very long.

Then Battlestar Galactica was resurrected yet again in 2004.  This show had a five-year run, although it ought to have been cancelled after the first episode.  The very scene, although it begins with an intriguing narration, soon degenerates into pornography, from which it never recovers.  Starbuck is replaced by a cigar-chomping Stardoe, probably a nod to lesbian viewers.  There’s nothing optimistic or redeeming about this Starbuck, and certainly nothing entertaining.

That is the sad state of our culture in the 21st Century.  That this show should have endured for five years, on laser-blasts and culture shock, while the original only survived one year is a sad commentary on the state of culture.  We’ve forgotten how to be light-hearted, modest, and respectful.  Heroes are dark and angry, women are as crude and foul-mouthed as the men, and fathers are a sad caricature of their forbearers.  At least on television and the movies.

Where are today’s Glenn Fords, Lorne Greenes, Robert Youngs, and Michael Landons?  The Battlestar Galactica was on a quest to find its civilizations forefathers, or their descendants.  If a real Galactica is on her way here to Earth, she’s in for a major shock and disappointment if she scans our broadcasts.


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